Dictatorship of the Embryo

In distinction from the male of the human species, the human woman, for Nemilov – author of the book “The Biological Tragedy of Woman” – is not just the victim of a biological illusion but has also “to pay a high price through her protracted and many-faceted service to what serves ‘the genius of the species’”. This service requires a reorganization of her entire organism. The conditions under which the reconstruction and reorganization of this organism take place can only be described as extremely cruel and brutal. Nature establishes in the body of the woman a pitiless dictatorship of the ripening fruit, concentrating her whole body on the task of protecting this minuscule new piece of living matter and mercilessly demanding, to this end, a complete abnegation, on the mother’s part, of her own self. Everything for the germinating seed, everything for the ‘genius of the species’; and for the mother only pains and discomforts of every kind.” (Nemilov)

We are dealing here, then, with the following constellation: women are, on the one hand, either voluntary accomplices or coerced accessories in this “Diktat of birth”; at the same time, they are subject – to a much greater extent than is the male of the human species – to the Diktat of that specific human being whose existence they are causing to begin: i.e. the embryo. Simone de Beauvoir surely means something of this sort when she writes of how a woman experiences her pregnancy as “at the same time an enrichment and a mutilation. The foetus is at once a part of her body and a parasite which lives at her expense.” (Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, Book Two, Part Two, VI. Motherhood) “Day by day a polyp, which has been born out of her body but is strange to this body, is battening upon her being”. The biological dictatorship of the embryo culminates in the àParturitionist Terror and then finds immediate continuation in the social Diktat of the newborn.[1]

Developing these thoughts of de Beauvoir’s in a blackly humorous spirit, Klinger describes to us the “shrewdness” of the child in the moment of parturition: “Weakness is the mother of power; and when the valiant son does not rend his mother’s body, when being born, in two it is not through clemency that he refrains from doing so. For if he did, who would be there to suckle and to feed him?” (Klinger, Betrachtungen und Gedanken)

[1] See also on this topic Sonja Martina Allen, Eine Poetik der Mutterschaft: Maternitätsbilder bei Else Lasker-Schüler und Marie Luise Kaschnitz, S. 192.

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